Fire at Bellingham High

A minor fire occurred at Bellingham High School



The tape model was hanging from the ceiling when it was allegedly lit on fire and fell to the ground. Classes were excused early for the day per Fire Department recommendation. "I couldn't even tell what it was at the time," said Bellingham High School Student Joey Jefferes (11).

Lucy Sun

A fire occurred at Bellingham High School on the afternoon of January 17. According to witnesses, a tape model manikin caught on fire in the later hours of school. Custodians extinguished the fire promptly. Classes were excused early for the day amid concerns of smoke inhalation. Activities scheduled to take place in the afternoon and evening at Bellingham High School went on as scheduled.

The art class had distributed life-sized tape manikins, a recent project, around the school. One such manikin, which was sitting in the hallway of the first floor, was the origin of the fire. Juan Tafolla (9) was sitting in his Technical Literacy class, across from where the fire started.

“There were tape statues in the hall. One of them hanging from the ceiling caught on fire and fell to the ground. Then everyone went and looked at it, and people took videos and someone pulled the fire alarm. Nothing flammable was around it.”

Joey Jeffers (11) was in her Visual Communications classroom, right next to the origin of the fire, when the fire alarm went off.

“Smoke started coming into the classroom and we went outside and saw a plastic manakin on the floor that was completely engulfed in fire. I couldn’t even tell what it was at the time. Someone had to close the barrier to stop [the fire] from spreading.”

Half an hour later, after standing outside by the side of the school, the students were excused from school.

“Everyone had to go home per fire department recommendation,” Jeffers said.

The decision to cancel classes for the rest of the day rose amid safety concerns about inhaling the smoke.

“The burnt plastic was creating toxic fumes and we didn’t know if it was healthy for people to come back into the building,” Bellingham High School Principal Linda Miller said. “Right away we started opening all the doors. Things started to clear out.”

Eventually, staff members returned into the building to retrieve belongings.

“Things started to clear out and staff members felt comfortable enough to go in and get kids’ stuff out of classrooms,” Miller said.

Although school was forced to end early for the day, afternoon activities scheduled to take place inside the building resumed. The gym was assessed and cleared, and people were able to return for sports and other activities.

“By the time 3:30 came around, we could have practice in the other part of the buildings,” Miller said.

All classes at Bellingham High School resumed as normal the following day.

While the source of the fire has been confirmed, some uncertainty still remains regarding the cause of it.

“We don’t know if somebody set [the tape manikin] on fire or whether it was too close to a light. We hope that it was just an accident and that this wasn’t someone who did it intentionally,” Miller said. “If it hadn’t fallen to the ground, it could’ve lit the ceiling on fire and really caused some damage. ”

Fortunately, the building itself sustained no real damage, aside from four burnt tiles which were immediately replaced.

Following the fire, the tape model manikins were removed from the hallways. According to Miller, the fire has led to some consideration about extra precautions to be taken in the future.

“Unfortunately we’ll have to think more about what we’ll have in the hallways. It inhibits what we want to put out there for students to enjoy, which is sad,” Miller said.

In addition to voicing her appreciation towards the students for being helpful amid the incident, Miller stressed the significance of being alert. “It’s important for people who see or hear something like that to reach out to an adult or a tip line and not let anyone get away with something like that.”